As a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney, I receive a lot of questions about how to qualify or utilize First Offenders in Georgia. In today's post, I will outline the law behind the program and explain how it can work for you if you have been accused of your first criminal offense.
Georgia First Offender Act
Many Georgians do not understand how the Georgia First Offender Act works or if it can apply to their charge. Georgia Law defines the act in O.C.G.A. §42-8-60 as:
Where a defendant has not been previously convicted of a felony, the court may, upon a verdict or plea of guilty or nolo contendere, and before adjudication of guilt, without entering a judgment of guilty and with the consent of the defendant, defer future proceedings and place the defendant on probation or sentence the defendant to a term of confinement.
There are requirements in order to be considered for the program. These requirements are as follows:
1. You must not have been convicted of a felony in not just Georgia, but any state.
- You cannot have already been sentenced as a first offender.
- The crime in which you are charged must not be a serious violent felony, serious sexual offense, DUI, or related to child pornography.
It is also important for me to point out, as a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer, that you do not automatically get into the First Offender Program just because an offense is your first offense. Your Attorney is responsible for informing you as to your eligibility for sentencing as a first offender. After that you must inform the Court of your willingness to enter into the program and the prosecutor will determine if you are eligible as well. The judge has the discretion to allow first offender treatment for a defendant.
If you successfully complete all terms of the First Offender Program and do not commit a new crime during the process, you will not have a conviction.
Furthermore, the charge will be sealed from your official criminal history. After you complete the program, your probation officer will ask the judge to issue an Order of Discharge. This Order of Discharge will be filed with the Clerk's office, and the Clerk will enter the Order on your official Georgia criminal history record. This allows for your case to be sealed from your official criminal history record. However, remember that lawyers, law enforcement officers, judges, and police will always be able to see the charge.
If you or a loved one has been arrested or received a citation, contact our offices today. There may be an alternative program that works best for you - such as a First Offender Program. It is in your best interest to get started on your defense or plan of action as quickly as possible. Contact us now.